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Liver Tonic

Alison Bone finds that Royal Liver is already planning to build on its recent entry into protection sector.

The protection market’s most recent entrant, Royal Liver, is already developing new products and looking to increase the number of IFAs it deals with.

The firm says it is on target to meet and perhaps exceed the 50 contracts it hoped to sell in the first four weeks of business since launch on October 15.

IFA market manager Andy Milburn says: “So far, IFAs are telling us that what we have done is quite good”.

Royal Liver’s foray into the protection market is the first time that the company has worked with the IFA channel as its products were previously developed for its direct salesforce although they could be accessed by IFAs.

It is offering its protection product to around 8,000 IFAs from Lifesearch, Park Row, Sesame, Bankhall, In Partnership, Tenet, Threesixty and Simply Biz. Milburn says some IFA firms are asking why they were not part of the launch from day one and reveals that more firms will be added to its distribution list over the coming months.

But there are no plans to offer the product to the whole of the market as Milburn says that, as a friendly society, Royal Liver does not have the shareholder pressures of a plc. He says: “Our directors told us that we do not need to provide a huge volume of business so at the moment we are making sure that everything is working and that service is not suffering. We do not have to go mass market to meet shareholder demand as we are not a plc and at the moment we do not want to.”

Royal Liver decided to enter the protection market shortly after a number of providers pulled out because it saw it as the market most open to innovation.

Milburn believes that with the mortgage market just regulated and with a lot of brokers and IFAs writing mortgage business online, it was the ideal opportunity for a new entrant to the sector.

Royal Liver was able to develop its product – menu-based mortgage protection – relatively quickly by bolting together services from third-party providers.

Back-office and admin systems are provided by Marl-borough Stirling with Otter Risk Solutions handling the underwriting, Unum Provident dealing with income protection claims and Pinnacle the unemployment cover.

Milburn says this means if the firm wants to tweak or change the product, it can be done quickly.

Royal Liver is working on its next product, which moves away from mortgage cover to personal protection.

Milburn says: “We are researching all the features of the product to see what we can add. We are working with product researchers from Bankhall and are trying to get IFAs in general to be more involved with design of products.”

Milburn is particularly pleased with this aspect, saying the industry has not bothered to ask IFAs what works for them in a product.

Unlike many of its competitors in the protection market which are heavily involved in multi-tie negotiations with distributors, Royal Liver says it is leaving multi-tie discussions on the back burner.

Milburn says he is more concerned with ensuring that everything is working with the product and he foresees a situation in the near future where some of the firms that Royal Liver has been working with as distribution partners could approach him with multi-tie propositions.

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